The Mölnlycke Health Care blog
The creativity of repurposed invention - the O.R. and beyond
Every medical development or new piece of equipment that comes into common practice and use is a candidate for innovation. As new treatments and therapies require new technologies and tools, clinicians, hospitals and other healthcare professionals are always looking at ways to maximize efficiency, reduce costs and improve patient outcomes, care and safety. This is a tall order, but the industry is much more creative than one would imagine. Many developments progress from their original, intended uses to expand into new territory as a result of this creativity, need and a healthy dose of evidence and science! Innovation is often born of taking an invention and repurposing it.
A case in point: pulse lavage systems. Pulse lavage has made a journey from semi-disposable systems with reusable handpieces to fully single-use systems. While both still exist, effective infection prevention and control, which is under more scrutiny all the time with the jump in number of hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic resistance, is enhanced by employing single-use parts. As pulse lavage evolved, hospitals were, as usual, looking for new ways to optimize their workload and processes, not least in their sterilization units. It became clear that the expense – both in cost and resources – of reprocessing reusable equipment could be too high, especially given the potential costs of a patient acquiring an infection. In this case, the need for greater efficiency, better processes and critical fundamentals, such as infection control, were aligned.
With applications in both surgical and wound care settings, the way pulse lavage has been used, and the understanding of how it should be applied, has changed. Innovation comes not just with changes to the tool itself but to the therapies for which a tool is used. For example, a wound care treatment might require a much lower level of pressure, and in the early days of pulse lavage, it may not have been as well understood that high pressure lavage would remove healthy tissue along with bacteria.
Meanwhile in surgical settings, where pulse lavage systems for hip and knee replacements have been common in orthopaedic surgery since the 1990s, high-pressure jets (70 psi) are required to remove blood, debris and small bone fragments, which is essential for effective bone cleaning and creating optimal conditions for the placement of new artificial joints.
Thus, a single-use, high-pressure solution for these specific uses was developed in the name of added efficiency and convenience for the process flow within the hospital.
This is the intersection where need, efficiency and creativity meet. Conflicting demands, healthcare fundamentals, such as infection prevention, and new discoveries pose challenges in developing new therapies and products, meaning that innovation is – and must be – ongoing.
What other medical/healthcare inventions and developments have been repurposed and how have they changed your hospital workflow?